On Social Security and Other Campaign Issues

Robert Samuleson in the Washington Post today examines Obama’s “specifics.” Samuelson notes Obama’s pledge to “protect social securuty benefits for current and future beneficiaries” and a new exemption from income tax for retirees making less than $50,000 “shifts more of the burden onto younger workers” (Samuelson). Other elements of Obama’s economic plan are “[b]oilerplate policies that evade the underlying causes of the stalemate. These issues remain contentious because they involve real conflicts or differences of opinion.” All this falls short of the high standards on which Obama campaigns. Samuelson then declares it a “mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation’s major problems.”

Samuelson has his own plan for addressing spending on retirees, which is nearly half the half federal budget — a combination of benefit cuts and a slow retirement-age increase. He’s even addressed the political feasibility of reform proposals. Thanks, Robert, for trying to keep all our politicians honest. Obama speaks about personal responsibility and courage to tell the public hard truths. He might do well to scold us a little while he lifts our spirits.

Journalists who are now buying into the rhetoric over substance trope would do well to escape that eternal, though relevant, debate and commit to learning more about a few issues, such as social security, health care, energy policy, the Middle East and China. Only then can they assist their readers in evaluating the policy differences.

That said, more soon on why policies matter less than rhetoric.

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